Tim Fortescue: Conservative MP and marketing man who later led the Food and Drink Industries Council

Sunday 23 October 2011 09:07

Tim Fortescue was essentially an expert in marketing, who brought his skills and panache briefly to Westminster, but it was perhaps typical of our times that he attracted most attention years after he had left politics for his confirmation that the Conservative Whips Office – and no doubt the Labour Party's also – practised some of the black arts that had found their way into the light of day by way of Michael Dobbs's fiction.

He had earlier made waves in his political career, when MP for Liverpool Garston, by revealing the "anarchy" caused in Ford's Halewood plant by the activities of the shop stewards, who had brought the men out on unofficial strike in 1971, encouraged the sabotage of machines and countenanced drunkenness and theft. His allegations were rooted in complaints made by men who wanted to work, and he compiled a detailed dossier for Ford, urging them not to re-employ known agitators.

As a senior Conservative whip from 1970 until he resigned in September 1973, he helped steer the European Communities Bill through the Commons and stilled doubts about Heath's various policy U-turns.

A product of Uppingham and King's College Cambridge, Trevor Fortescue (known as Tim) had joined the Colonial Service in 1938 and while serving as a magistrate in Hong Kong was interned by the Japanese when they occupied the colony in 1941. After his release in 1945, he worked with the newly formed United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation until 1947, returning to government service as a magistrate in Kenya 1949-51.

A further spell with the FAO, this time in Rome, was followed by a highly successful period as the Chief Marketing Officer for the Milk Marketing Board from 1954 to 1959. He joined the management of Nestlé in 1959, working first in Switzerland and then from 1963 in London. He was elected for Liverpool Garston in March 1966.

His maiden speech was an attack on the Selective Employment Tax, which he noted memorably put the Governor of the Bank of England and a strip-tease artiste in the same category: both were non productive. Fortescue was no slavish follower of the party line, and was notably one of the few Conservatives to vote with Iain Macleod against the Labour government's legislation to block the immigration of Kenyan Asians. He also raised his personal profile by spending weeks behind a Social Security counter, with further spells to follow with the police and with the staff in Walton jail. That gave him a thorough insight into the public sector and he regarded himself as a specialist on social security.

Although a loyal member of the whips' office when the Conservatives returned to power, he chafed at the way in which this stopped him from contributing to the debates on the Industrial Relations Bill and used the freedom of his constituency role to highlight the problems caused to British industry by the trade-union movement.

In September 1973, he took up an appointment as Secretary-General of the Food and Drink Industries Council, standing down from the Commons at the February 1974 general election – his seat fell to Labour. He remained a decade in his new job, countering the increased worries about unhealthy eating with the insouciant assertion that "a little of what you fancy does you good". He was appointed CBE in 1984, the year in which he took up the presidency of the British Food Manufacturing Industries Research Association, a position he held until 1992. Among his other activities were a spell as Trustee of Uppingham School 1957-63 and 14 years as Patron and Trustee of the Quest Community in Birmingham, 1971-85.

Having moved to Winchester, he served with his wife, Anthea, as the Development Manager of the Cathedral from 1989 to 1990, helping restore its financial fortunes. Passionately interested in Napoleon, his principal recreation was golf, but towards the end he listed his only recreation as "marriage to Anthea".

John Barnes

Trevor Victor Norman (Tim) Fortescue, politician: born Chingford, Essex 28 August 1916; Chief Marketing Officer, Milk Marketing Board 1954-59; Manager, Nestlé Group of Companies, 1959-66; MP (Conservative) for Liverpool Garston 1966-74; a Government Whip 1971-73; Secretary-General, Food and Drink Industries Council 1973-83; CBE 1984; married 1939 Margery Hunt (one son, one daughter, and one son deceased; marriage dissolved 1975), 1975 Anthea Higgins; died 29 September 2008.

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